Climate Action Vision
The urgency of climate change demands immediate and intentional action.
Climate change is one of the most important and pressing challenges of our time. The urgency of this crisis demands action that redefines leadership, crosses disciplinary and intellectual boundaries, and addresses the structural inequalities that contribute to our current global predicament. As a college for women located in New York City, Barnard has a responsibility to address climate change — especially as it relates to issues surrounding gender, income, and race. Indeed, research is very clear that the consequences of climate change have a disproportionate impact on women, people of color, and those who are most economically disadvantaged in the U.S. and across the world. It is vital that the search for climate solutions include diverse viewpoints and prioritize those who have been and will be most affected.
Barnard’s Climate Action Vision, the result of a campus-wide collaborative effort from 2016 - 2018, outlines our 360-degree approach that prioritizes the role of women, people of color, and low-income communities in defining new paradigms for climate leadership. But there is much more to do. We are currently developing a plan for emissions reductions across all three scopes that meets the ambitious New York state and city standards with the goal of carbon neutrality and have worked to green our campus through everything from lawn care to internal reuse programs and organics collection. Our focus falls into three main areas: Barnard’s academics, finance and governance, and campus culture and operations.
Citizens' Assembly Recommendations: In the fall of 2020, a Conversation Series and Citizens’ Assembly, open to all students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, brought our community together to develop a set of recommendations to further advance Barnard's Climate Action Vision. Our conversations focused on sustainability and access, climate in the curriculum, and travel emissions.
Academics: Barnard is already home to many programs and initiatives that promote climate action. As part of the greater Columbia University community, our faculty are pioneers in environmental research and are working diligently to help Columbia shape its next steps in this area. Importantly, our faculty are also engaged pedagogues, committed to preparing our students to mitigate the impact of climate change and serve as leaders in this global crisis. Case in point, Barnard graduates have gone on to lead important institutions such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Greenpeace. Moving forward, Barnard is reexamining its general education requirements to explore the possibility of adding a requirement that all Barnard students take coursework centered on the environment, sustainability, and/or climate change. In 2017-18, our Willen Seminar on Sustainability began exploring sustainability across the curriculum, and in spring 2020, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy continued this dialogue through a series of faculty workshops.
Finance and Governance: Barnard is committed to incorporating climate and sustainability into its decision-making, from capital improvements and our endowment to routine financial choices. In 2017, Barnard’s Board of Trustees announced that the College would divest its endowment from companies that dispute climate science or otherwise seek to thwart efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change. We have released our Climate Science List, which evaluates oil and gas companies on their words and deeds. The Climate Science List is based on criteria developed by Barnard faculty, students, and staff in consultation with our partners at Fossil Free Indexes (FFI) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Barnard is using this novel approach (and the associated data) to focus its endowment on companies that recognize climate science and the risks posed by climate change. The College is also making the Climate Science List public. In doing so, our hope is to influence (and provide support for) other institutions’ investment decisions.
The Climate Science List is highlighted in the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index. A publication from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Campus Index highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from colleges and universities that submitted a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report in the most recent calendar year.
Campus Culture and Operations: Barnard joined the NYC Carbon Challenge in 2009 and is proud to be one of the first NYC institutions to reach the initial goal of 30% emissions reductions from 2005 levels. In 2017, the College signed the “We Are Still In” pledge, underscoring our effort to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. But there is much more to do. We are currently developing a plan for emissions reductions across all three scopes1 that meets the ambitious New York state and city standards with the goal of carbon neutrality. We have also worked to green our campus through everything from lawn care to internal reuse programs and organics collection. At the same time, our faculty, staff, and students are actively pursuing solutions to the social inequities women and low-income communities experience due to climate change. Past programming such as Beyond Barnard’s fall 2019 “Dialogues for Change” and our spring 2019 event “Women, Clothing, and Climate” explore these intersections.
The Climate Action Vision is a living document. Updates are in our end of year reports:
Barnard’s approach to sustainability and climate action is rooted in its long history of breaking barriers for and with women who challenge the status quo. This is the work that climate change demands, especially with respect to involving voices that have traditionally not been heard. Barnard is grateful to all in our community who have worked together, and individually, to support our efforts across the campus to reverse the growing threat to our planet and build a resilient and equitable future for all. Please join in as we continue this vital work.